How to Choose the Right Protein Powder (and Do You Even Need It)?

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My oh my... there are so many protein powders on the market at the moment. Are you confused and want to know which one to buy?

And which type is the right one for you?

Here, I'll run you through the basics questions to help clear your confusion (no matter what your dietary restrictions are).

  1. What is protein?

  2. Do you need a protein powder?

  3. What should you look out for when you're buying a protein powder?

  4. What should you look for if you're on a low carb or keto diet?

  5. What type of protein powder is amazing for GUT HEALTH?

And let you know my favourite protein powder brands. 

1. What is protein?

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Protein is a large molecule that is made up of many amino acids and amino acids are the building blocks for protein in the body. It's one of the three macronutrients, the other two being carbohydrates and fat.

It's essential we consume protein as all of our organs, including the skin, are built from amino acids, as are the muscles, hair and nails.

Many hormones are also proteins. The immune system, digestive system and blood all rely on proteins to work correctly too. 

The body needs twenty amino acids, and it can synthesize 11 of these itself! However, there are nine, called ‘essential amino acids’ that the body can't create and has to gain through the consumption of food.

Protein is, therefore, an essential part of all of our diets.

2. Do you need a protein powder?

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It depends! I could go on for hours here because we are all different... but all you really need to know is that you probably don't need it UNLESS you're lacking protein in your diet.

It's actually very easy to obtain enough protein if you are eating a whole foods diet and focusing on consuming a rich source of protein with each main meal, like a serving of meat, fish, eggs, legumes, tofu or nuts. You must focus on variation though in order to obtain all of the essential amino acids I mentioned before. 

HOWEVER, we don't always just eat things and buy things because we "need them" right?! I'll extrapolate below...

So how much do you need?

On average, you need a minimum amount of 0.6 g/kg/day. This equates to around 50g per day for the average female. What does that look like? Well, if a serving of meat that is the size of your palm has approximately 20 g.. you can see how easily this can be met. 

BUT, protein powders are still great in certain circumstances! They suit...

  • People who may not have time to prepare proper meals due to their ease of use

  • People who want to replace a meal with a smoothie to cut down on their calorie intake and

  • People who can't seem to meet their protein needs through food alone (for example if they're trying to GAIN muscle mass or follow a vegan diet).

I personally love using them because they taste great and can also replace flour to turn an otherwise high carb meal into a low carb one, like my protein pancakes or breakfast pudding. Check them out if you haven't already! You'll thank me later...

Do you want to know more about how much protein you should be eating per day? Please read this article! I really trust what Dr Jason Fung recommends and love his work.

3. What should you look out for when you're buying a protein powder

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I'll keep this short and sweet.

Turn to the nutrition label and ingredients list of your powder.

You want to see that it DOESN'T have...

Casein + WPC
These are also known as whey protein concentrate and caseinate. WPC’s and casein protein sources are high in lactose, which can often cause bloating, flatulence, and gastrointestinal distress in some people.

These ingredients can raise glycemic load, which raises insulin and may contribute to fat storage. Most are processed with GMO corn and they can also cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. They are mostly added to protein powders as fillers to bulk it out.

Any artificial sweetener except for stevia or xylitol. 
Common ones are sucralose, splenda (955), aspartamine, equal, NutraSweet (951), or saccharin (954). These (may) cause headaches, migraines, weight gain, acid reflux and gastric distress such as bloating and diarrhoea. 

Skim milk powders/milk solids
These are often used as cheap bulking agents in low-quality powders. They are high in lactose sugars, which can cause bloating, gastrointestinal distress, constipation, and loose stools. The protein is poorly absorbed into the body, making it harder for you to reap all of its benefits.

Soy protein
Soy proteins contain the chemical compound phyto-oestrogen, which may cause hormonal disturbances as it can mimic oestrogen in women. It can also lead to suppressed thyroid function in some people. Soy proteins often come from genetically-modified sources with high pesticide use too which we don't want for obvious reasons. 

Vegetable oils
These are often added to most protein powders to increase richness and make them taste creamy. However, these fats are often derived from hydrogenated sources that contain trans fats. Trans fats raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol. 

I also personally believe that most of us are gluten sensitive in some way. So I always recommend buying a powder that's certified gluten-free. 

You also want it to be...

  • Sugar-free

  • Non-GMO

  • And contain 60-100g protein per/100g.

4. What should you look for if you're on a low carb or keto diet?

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Everything above needs to be taken into account, PLUS there's just one simple trick.

Look at the nutrition label and make sure that there is no more than 5g carbs/serving. This applies to all foods when you're checking if they're low carb!

And the lower the better here too... 

5. What type of protein powder is amazing for GUT HEALTH?

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You need to choose one that doesn't cause gastric bloating and upset. Regular bloating eventually leads to a leaky gut and a whole series of resulting health issues, so you want to get on top of this and stop consuming one that makes you bloated!

Whey protein powders can often cause bloating in people, as can peas. So you may need to trial and error. Like I said before, gluten should be avoided so make sure to choose a gluten free one. 

ALSO.... the strength and integrity of your gut lining needs to be prioritised if you already have leaky gut. Don't know what this is? You must read this

Lot's of you would have leaky gut (or would be on your way there) and so you need to work on closing the gaps and strengthening your gut lining. Something that is GREAT for this is collagen. So, I always recommend collagen protein powders to people who are gut-health conscious.

Some of my favourites are:

Let me know if you have any questions too! Please leave comments below :)

Bec xx


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